The supernatural drama Constantine and the women’s prison dramedy Orange Is The New Black, on the surface, could not be more different shows. One’s a horror show featuring an iconic DC/Vertigo character airing Friday nights on NBC and seems of a pace with other genre programming (not that that’s bad; I’m very much looking forward to it).
The other is a groundbreaking series–based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Chapman–that recently garnered a ton of Emmy nominations and has justifiably won praise for its diverse casting, including the amazing Laverne Cox, who has made history as the first transgender person on the cover of TIME Magazine and the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy (and deservedly so).
Yet, there’s one thing both of these shows have in common and it annoys me to no end. What could they possibly have in common, you ask?
Well, they both seem rather determined to ignore bisexuality. So…yeah.
All right, that’s a bold claim, but let me try and defend it (disclaimer: I’m not LGBT+, nor am I an expert in sexuality/gender studies, but I DO consider myself an ally and I’m trying to become more aware of this sort of thing, hence this post).
See, in the pages of Hellblazer, the long-running and incredibly good Vertigo comic that starred John Constantine, it was established canon that John was bi. “Girlfriends, the odd boyfriend. They’ve all walked out on me.” he said in Hellblazer #51. Now, this is a tossed-off detail mired in self-pity and black humor (that’s kinda John’s whole thing. He’s a cynical jerk who can blow up your face with magic) but it’s still an established fact about the character and has been called back to over the years. Heck, in his run on the title, writer Brian Azzarello caught some flak for showing John in a gay relationship!
Yet, the producers of Constantine recently confirmed at this year’s Television Critics Association’s press tour that “there are no immediate plans” to show John with a man; basically, it’s not happening. He also won’t be smoking, which is just as flat-out stupid, considering it’s so central a trait to Constantine that what is widely acknowledged as the best Hellblazer story ever revolved around him getting terminal lung cancer.
But I digress. Now, how does Orange Is The New Black, one of the best-loved shows of the moment, go similarly wrong?
Well, remember the initial ads for the show last summer? Where Piper (Taylor Schilling) explained to her family that the reason she was going to jail was because she had previously dated Alex (Laura Prepon), a drug smuggler? And her mom simply went, “You’re a lesbian?” And Piper replied, “I was a lesbian, at the time.” To which her weirdo brother Cal (Michael Chernus) pipes up, “Are you…still a lesbian?” Beat hit. Laugh. Hahaha.
Now that is a funny exchange in that moment, but the more I watch OITNB–and I’m not that far, as of this writing–that beat gets hit over and over and over again. From what I understand, it’s continued into the second season. Now that’s just dang annoying.
Given how the show’s open diversity is constantly touted as one of its strengths, it’s odd and weird that they can’t bring themselves to say the word bisexual. Not to mention it, like so much else, erases the B from the LGBT+ movement.
Especially considering that over on Game Of Thrones this past season, one of the best parts of the show, a fan favorite and a well-deserving Emmy nominee (although he was stupidly shut out) was Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell, the prince of Dorne, who openly said when asked about his bisexuality responded that if most people are only attracted to one gender, then “both [men and women] are missing half the world’s pleasure.”
Now granted, Oberyn never said he was bi either, but considering that word didn’t, y’know, exist at the medieval period GoT is ostensibly st in, that’s somewhat understandable. But the point remains: if HBO can bring themselves to show an openly bi character, surely Netflix–which has even LESS censorship surrounding it than HBO does–can bring OITNB to do the same.
And NBC? Well, it’s NBC, so just consider it a miracle that John Constantine wasn’t made American. Take what you can get in some cases with TV, but fight for more in others.